If you’re a cyclist and you are in any way fond of gadgets, or you just appreciate the statistical joy to be found in a simple bike ride, you are sure to own a cycle computer.
(Is that what we call them these days? Cycle computers? Sounds a bit out-dated somehow; shouldn’t it be a device, or a GPS enabled performance portal, or an onboard data hub or something equally flash and pretentious?)
Anyway, there’s a quote that gets trotted out about the fact that your average smartphone contains more computer processing power than was used to put a man on the moon in the 1960’s and, whilst I’m no rocket scientist, I’d confidently suspect that’s the case with your average onboard cycle computer too. Whether all that processing power will help to put a man riding a bike on top of a big hill any more quickly is doubtful.
Having used a reasonably basic Garmin for 7 or 8 years (other cycle computers are available, and are probably great, I just like Garmin), it finally decided recently that it had been dropped, got wet, and generally mistreated one too many times and died a very sudden (but peaceful) death. Which left me Garmin-less; with the silver lining that I get to choose and buy a new Garmin (glass half-full and all that).
And so I upgraded (to the Garmin 510, for those who are interested in such matters).
So how has this changed my life?
Well, apart from now having a sleek and slick looking toy to carry around with me – as opposed to a battered and intermittent relic of technology – I now have access to a whole new level of features which, while still painting a picture of a pretty average club-cyclist, does mean that I’m now well aware of that fact from every conceivable angle; I may be average, but I can tell you why in a very scientific and detailed way.
So I find myself pedalling along and checking up on the gradient of the patch of tarmac in front of me, my total height gain, the current air temperature, my cadence, heart rate, average speed, and … on and on and on.
Which is great, but it did occur to me that whilst I’m involved in all this frivolous data analysis while on the move I’m clearly not fully engaged with the job in hand; namely, dragging my statistically obsessed backside up the hill in front of me. Anyone who’s got the time and energy to peer down at the display and monitor their ascent in minute detail (5%…still 5%…oh, wait, this bit is 7%…now 5% again) is blatantly not trying hard enough.
My new toy will also do lots of clever stuff that I haven’t quite figured out yet. For example, via the magic and mystery of Bluetooth it will zap vital weather updates through the ether and onto my screen, warning me of the fact that I am 40 miles from home and about to get a thorough soaking. Of course, my Garmin doesn’t know that I have neglected to carry a waterproof today (I think you need to buy an extra sensor to detect that) and so exactly how much use this feature will prove to be is a moot point.
It will also apparently link up with all manner of social media, but I find it hard to believe that my latest trundle around the hills of northern England is of interest to the wider online community so I won’t honestly be using that any time soon.
Having said all this, my experience with any new cycling kit is that, prior to owning it you think ‘ppssshhh! when am I ever going to need that’ (armwarmers, for example). Once your wallet has taken the hit and you’ve actually bought the thing, you wonder how you ever managed without it.
So, next time I find myself riding up a 12% gradient, in the pouring rain, with a heart rate of 90% of my maximum and pedalling with a cadence of 90 rpm, I still might not be riding quite as fast as I’d like to be, but I can talk you through it in glorious statistical detail.